Slavery in New Haven

New Haven police officer comes to Quinnipiac to discuss the widespread crime of human trafficking, as well as her department’s plans to combat it

By on April 29, 2015

In 1850, an average slave in the American South cost $40,000 in today’s dollar. Today, a slave in terms of human trafficking costs about $90. Human trafficking is the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

On April 22, the Quinnipiac Catholic Chaplaincy hosted a presentation titled “Slavery in New Haven: Exploring the Local Dimension of Global Human Trafficking” as part of its Program in Engaged Religion’s Anchor Speaker Series. It was standing room only in Echlin 101.

“This is part of our program-engaged religion,” Quinnipiac Catholic Chaplain Father Jordan Lenaghan said. “It’s a co-curricular set of activities designed to position religion as a platform for academic analysis, as well as creating advance that become an opportunity for you to engage in ethical and moral and philosophical and theological reflection about global issues.”

Sergeant Jacqueline Hoyte, a 15-year veteran at the New Haven Police Department spoke about her efforts in combating human trafficking only eight miles from the Mount Carmel campus.

“I was a training officer in the training academy and the subject really appealed to me,” Hoyte said. “It is a crime against humanity.”

Hoyte said she wanted to get involved somehow and show her police department that these crimes are committed on their streets. She wanted them to become more in tune with what’s going on with the city of New Haven in terms of human trafficking.

“I am part of a core group that will bring, it will be a collaborative effort between law enforcement and prosecutors,” Hoyte said. “These cases are not being tried or prosecuted locally. Everything is always done on the federal level. We have such a huge problem and these cases are coming up everywhere in New Haven and we’re unable to or we don’t have the proper training to get cases prosecuted properly.”

About 150,000 children from the United States are used in prostitution every year. Most victims are American-born children, a majority are runaways and as many as 68 percent to 72 percent of these youth have been involved in the children welfare system, according to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“This is becoming a huge issue,” Hoyte said. “Especially in law enforcement, especially in the city of New Haven and I’m sure in other surrounding towns.”

The trafficker can be a pimp, a boyfriend, a relative, coach, teacher or anyone who is in control over a minor, according to Hoyte.

“A lot of the time a parent is pimping out their children,” Hoyte said. “And the child will feel obligated they have to provide for the family.”

During the presentation Hoyte showed about eight arrest photos of the same girl over a two-year period. She asked the audience to call out how old they thought she was.

The answers ranged from 12 to 15 years-old. The audience gasped in shock; the girl was 12 when she was first trafficked.

Her appearance declined drastically. By the last two photos her face had no color, she had scratches and scars, a black eye, dark circles, dirty hair.

Living this lifestyle, being forced to have sex, being beaten, raped and drugged can cause this kind of harm to the body, Hoyte said.

“Sexual trafficking of minors also includes street prostitution, which is becoming increasingly  common,” Hoyte said. “Stripping can also cause sex and labor trafficking.”

People are now going online to buy sex from minors, Hoyte said. There are websites where girls will lie about their age to be trafficked. Trafficking has also become popular in gangs and private parties.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children, also know an CSEC, is the agreed upon term for child victims of human trafficking for sex purposes and exploitation regardless of their citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

“CSEC arises through a commercial exchange in which one or more parties gain a benefit where a child engages in sexual activities to have key needs fulfilled, such as food, shelter or access to education,” Hotye said.

This term is interchangeable with Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, DMST, which is human trafficking of an American citizen or lawful permanent resident under the age of 18.

The Polaris Project is an organization named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the United States. Their mission is to make long-term changes, such as identifying, reporting and eliminating trafficking networks in communities.

California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois have the highest number of reported trafficking cases, according to Polaris.

In Hoyte’s opinion, Connecticut can now be added to the list of states with high reported human trafficking cases. This state is a destination for runaways, Hoyte said.

If the victim is underage, it doesn’t require any proof they are being trafficked. It is assumed they were forced or coerced into doing a sexual act, Hoyte said.

“We don’t view the person being trafficked as the offender,” Hoyte said. “Most of the time they are afraid to leave.”

With the advanced training, the New Haven Police Department will now be able to look beyond drug offenses and noise complaints to determine whether a young person is being trafficked.

“Look around and see what’s going on,” Hoyte said. “We’re not just busting a person and locking him up for the drug offense, but to look beyond that.”

NHPD plans to look at cases differently, Hoyte said. Law enforcement will use the Urban Dictionary app to become fluent in “the life,” the language used within trafficking rings.

The idea is to not just go in and arrest the individual so quickly.

“We try to find out, ask questions, separate them from the boyfriend and ask what’s going on? Who is this person? Are you free to go if you want?” Hoyte said.

Recently, a church clergy member in New Haven came to Hoyte and said they have a parishioner who believes her daughter is being trafficked.

The young girl comes home during the day, but goes out and comes home with a lot of money and new clothes.

“In New Haven, we try to build relationships with clergy members to raise their awareness,” Hoyte said. “To get them involved and try to go after these offenders.”

Teachers, businesses and transportation workers are also getting involved in the fight against human trafficking, Hoyte said. This is known as community collaboration in New Haven.

“Victims in Connecticut have included women from Latin America, Eastern Europe,” Hoyte said. “And United States teen runaways are forced into prostitution.”

Human trafficking is a major local, national and global issue. About 600,000 to 4 million people are trafficked worldwide each year, according to U.S. Department of State.
“Sometimes we think of these events taking place in far off lands,” Lenaghan said.  “We think they’re taking place in Ukraine or in the Czech Republic. We don’t often imagine that these global problems that have social and ethical and moral and cultural dimensions also have expressions here.”

Design by Hannah Schindler

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